Following on in our series of articles and letters published in the Glasgow Herald in 1859 after the reported riot in Tarbert. Below is the second letter in support of the Tarbert fishermen.
The ban on the Ring Net method of fishing was lifted in 1867. I have included this picture as an antidote, a balm if you like over the serious nature of the letter below. From the uneasy beginnings, Ring Net fishing became the subject of much inspiration among artists and writers.
Ring Net Skiffs
“A late 19 century painting by well known artist David Martin. It depicts a fleet of ring net skiffs on Loch Fyne. The main pair show that the ring net is almost set between the boats to bring the herring aboard. Seagulls are hopeful of a fish supper. The boats are kept apart to prevent crushing the net, by a crewman holding the reaching pole. Each boat carried 3/4 fishermen as can be clearly seen. The next pair look as if they are taking the catch aboard. Other distant boats with sails up are possibly searching for more, off back to port or en route to the screw steamer. A steamer is shown taking fish from a group of skiffs. The screws would the rush the fish to the Clyde railheads for speedy transfer to Glasgow and other markets further afield.
The location of the scene is near Tarbert along the Kerry Shore and the artist painted many similar pictures on the Loch and in Tarbert.
The boats were probably AG registered but impossible to be sure as the numbers were only painted on the shoulders.”
The Late Riot At Tarbert, Lochfyne
To the Editor of the Glasgow Herald Tabert, 17th Sept 1859
“Sir – In a leader in your number of the 12th instant, with reference to the alleged riotous proceedings at Tarbert, you make the following extraordinary statement, founded on a report by some very unprincipled individual:-
“The crews are set upon by these Tarbert men and seriously mauled; two of the Lochfyne men were kicked into the sea; two have to flee to the hills for their lives; and the smacks are towed out of the harbour and cast adrift, one of them with only a boy on board.”
The Tarbert men have endured much abuse at your reporter’s hands since the commencement of this disagreeable business, but not being adepts in newspaper writing, they have not hitherto contradicted any of the many mis-statements which you and your reporter have from time to time brought against them. The above, however, is so utterly and completely false, that it can not be allowed to pass unnoticed. The following is a disinterested and full statement of facts:-
Three of the Lochfyne men who came ashore were told by the trawlers to go on board, which they did, leaving the other two behind. The reason why they were advised them to go on board was that they wished to exercise a species of retaliation for the conduct of the Lochfyne men to them when in their waters, which retaliation was of course, wrong: but human nature is human nature. The Tarbert men then caused a Port Bannatyne boat to leave the inner harbour, and raised her anchor for that purpose,but dropped it again in a place of safety within the harbour. The owner had rendered himself very offensive to the Tarbert men, and such was the means they took of punishing him. Of course they were wrong in doing so, but there was nothing extremely heinous in thus punishing a man who proved ungrateful to them for former kindness. The Lochfyne men seeing the Port-Bannatyne man thus dealt with, expected their turn to come next, and of their own accord prepared to move, and asked the trawlers to tow them out. The trawlers did not tow them out, but told them they did not wish them to go out; but if they had a mind to do so, they might sail out if they pleased. In the meantime a crowd of men, women and children were congregated ashore, looking on, and the unfortunate two Lochfyne men who were ashore naturally enough afraid to venture among them, and made their exit by a back way and took to the hills. Now, the crowd were not assembled in consequence of the tow men being there, but merely spectators of the proceedings in the harbour, and the Lochfyne men took to the hills when they saw their comrades desert them. No person followed the two men, as is represented by your correspondent, excepting one woman, who clapped her hands and cheered them in derision.
Now the above is the sum and substance of that riot that occurred here; and I ask how could your reporter misrepresented the same to such a degree as that two men were shoved over the quay and left to sink or swim, that a third is mercilessly beaten, and that two had to flee to the hills for their lives? The Tarbert men would like to know how he could come to that conclusion.
I say it is a very discreditable thing of any man to invent such disreputable falsehoods, and whoever you correspondent or reporter may be, you ought not herefter to credit his statements unless you have something more substantial to rely on than his truthfulness. I am thoroughly satisfied that there is not a gentleman, connected with the Glasgow press who could be guilty of such a monstrosity as the above, From the report in your paper, backed with your own leader, the authorities hastened to Tabert, and naturally enough hesitated in attempting to apprehend parties, conceiving no doubt that the men were violent and lawless, and that a rescue might be attempted; but if you put yourself to the trouble of inquiring into the affair, you will find that the men expressed no intention of resisting the law further than an unwillingness to go with insufficient protection to Inverary. They would, however, go to Campbeltown at once. The Sheriff, therefore returned to Inverary, and appeared to-day with a large police force, backed by the Princess Royal cutter, and H.M. gunboat Jackdaw. He did not, however, send his force to seize the reputed ringleaders. Such a step might have turned out a very imprudent one, because if there had been an attempt of making a forcible seizure, it is hard to say what consequences might have been. The parties who were maned in the warrant, when they understand that they were wanted, went home, dressed themselves, and surrendered voluntarily. The police did not at all attempt to interfere, and the conduct of the Sheriff, of the chief constable, and others, was discreet in the extreme; and the behaviour of the Tarbert trawlers was also discreet, for they did not make the slightest manifestation of resistance. Such a thing they knew quite well was useless in the long run,and they never dreamt of it from the beginning. They did not show any trepidation, or alarm either, for there was nothing to be alarmed at. They had committed no serious offence, but were, as well as the Sheriff and the police force, and the Princess Royal and the Jackdaw, the victims of a hoax.
Please to give this letter publicity in your columns. I am certain you will be sorry to find that you ever gave credence to your reporter, who seems to take such malicious pleasure in applying his ignominious and contemtible, and barren, pauky wit to the Trabert people. Such a person, guilty of telling an untruth, dare not give his name. You may give him mine if you think proper. Meantime I remain, Sir, your obedt. Servt..
The Trust wishes to thank Ian McIntyre of Tarbert for making available this transcript